From the Daily Observer
June 23, 1987
A hawksbill turtle emerges from the surf. She is not aware, however, that she is about to make history. She pulls her large body up a ledge of sand and crawls toward the bushes backing the beach. This sea turtle has left the weightlessness and comfort of her marine habitat to haul her body up the beach and lay a clutch of eggs. Her body’s design has been shaped by millions of years of evolution to move effortlessly through the water. It is covered by a flattened, torpedo-shaped shell and propelled by flippers in place of feet. The only occasion sea turtles leave the comfort of their marine environment is to lay eggs, ensuring the survival of their species.
This particular hawksbill is being observed as she begins the nesting process. She is named Nina. After digging a 50cm-deep hole in the sand with her hind flippers, she takes a deep breath from the labor and becomes still. Just behind her tail is her cloaca, where her ovipositor descends, ready to push out about 150 eggs. During these ten minutes of egg-laying, the researchers pierce her left front flipper with a metal tag inscribed with the serial number PPN001. She is the first nesting hawksbill tagged in a new sea turtle monitoring program located on Long Island’s Pasture Beach.
July 20, 2010
The population has slowly but steadily grown over the last two decades, one of the few hawksbill populations in the Caribbean witnessing this trend. The critically endangered hawksbill continues to decline on a global scale, depleted by hundreds of years of harvest and increasing habitat loss. Today, fishing nets present an indirect threat, entangling and eventually drowning air-breathing sea turtles. The project received news this season of a hawksbill found dead, entangled in fishing gear off the coast of the Dominican Republic. She was identified as one of the younger hawksbills in the JB population, tagged in 2008. Although unfortunate, this turtle provides a clue about hawksbill migrations, telling us that a hawksbill nesting in Antigua travelled at least 1000km, most likely feeding on coral reefs in the Dominican Republic. This also shows us that to be effective, conservation efforts of long-lived, migratory animals like sea turtles must extend past geopolitical boundaries and promote partnerships at local, national and international levels.